OZARK, Mo. They're already turning dirt on the new 23,000-square-foot indoor training facility at U.S. Baseball Park in Ozark, Missouri.
While officials there say they're already happy with the business they're generating during the warm months, now they'll be able to expand their business year-round.
"The vision was we think we can become the hub of amateur baseball and that's pretty much what we've done," explained U.S. Baseball Park General Manager Mark Stratton, the former Drury and Glendale coach who's been running the park since it reopened in 2016 after years as a ghost town following the departure of the original tenant Ozark Mountain Ducks in 2004.
Now owned by the Williams Corporation out of Oklahoma, there's been about $3.5 million worth of improvements put into the park from a million-dollar artificial turf to a $875,000 video board.
Over that time the facility has found its niche in hosting amateur baseball events from Drury University and other college conference tournaments to high school games like the Missouri state championships plus summer travel team events.
The ballpark hosted just 80 events in its first year of operation.
Now they're up to 264 and expect to attract over 125,000 fans who will spend money on food, gas, and lodging in Ozark and surrounding areas.
This latest $1.5 million addition of the indoor facility is proof of the park's belief in its continuing economic benefit to the area.
"I know we see the future is bright enough for us to invest that kind of money," Stratton said.
The indoor facility, which is big enough for an entire infield, is expected attract both individual players and teams in both baseball and softball who want to work out year-round.
"You've got to do something in the off-season," Stratton pointed out. "You can't just sit around on the couch. Those days are over."
Proof of just how far we've come?
The new facility will have the latest in analytic technology including Rapsodo and HitTrax, which are camera-based systems that measure trajectory and velocity for batters and pitchers.
"They're techno-kids," Stratton said of the younger athletes these days. "They like to know what was their launch angle, what was their bat exit speed. Now the new word is the 'matrix'. So where do they fit in the matrix?"
"As soon as the pitch happens they can dissect what happened with the pitcher on that pitch, what happened with the batter on that pitch," explained Tyler Teems, the I.T. Coordinator for U.S. Baseball Park. "Then what can we do to make our pitcher better, what can we do to make our hitter better. They don't even have to be at the facility," Teems pointed out. "They can log into it at home on their iPad or iPhone or whatever and say 'watch my swings from my past batting practice I took earlier today' and they can watch all 100 swings that they took."
The indoor facility is expected to be open by the end of the summer.